No reason to increase gas prices: PM

Friday, 19 March 2021 00:25 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Says no shortage of gas supplies ahead of festival month 
  • Focus on reducing prices of essential items ahead of April 
  • 3,000 MT of rice seized by Customs to be distributed via CWE  

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said he does not see a need to increase gas prices during the festive season as there is no shortage of gas in the country, the Prime Minister’s Media Division said yesterday. 

The Prime Minister emphasised this while participating in a review meeting on the current economic situation and the market held at the Temple Trees on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

At the meeting, the Prime Minister focused on providing relief to consumers for rice, coconut, milk powder, fish, meat, eggs, dhal and grains, big onions and red onions, potatoes, vegetables and fruits as well as gas.

During the discussion, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardana drew attention to the disruption of supply chains, the change in exchange rates, the rise in prices of essential food items including rice, and the demands made by gas companies to increase prices in line with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Central Bank’s Economic Research Division, producing a report, pointed out that prices of essential commodities in the global economy were rising with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives of the Central Bank also pointed out that the trade deficit could increase if import controls were relaxed. Central Bank representatives explained that it is necessary to accumulate foreign exchange while uplifting local agriculture, strengthening local businesses and focusing on export of goods.

Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation Chairman Basil Rajapaksa inquired as to whether a program could be set up to distribute nearly 3,000 metric tons of rice seized by the Sri Lanka Customs to the people through the Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE). Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle agreed to the idea and the Prime Minister instructed the Director General of Customs G.V. Ravipriya to take the necessary steps.

In addition, the release of paddy stocks owned by the Paddy Marketing Board to the market and the purchase of another 25,000 metric tons from local rice traders were also discussed.

Basil Rajapaksa revealed that the country has produced enough rice for consumption and that there is no shortage of rice in the country. He also expressed confidence that vegetable prices would come down during the New Year season.

Meanwhile, State Minister of Coconut, Kithul, Palmyrah and Rubber Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversification Arundika Fernando said that a program will be prepared to sell coconuts at cheaper prices through Sathosa in the future. Commenting on the pressure to increase gas prices, Basil Rajapaksa said that the companies had made profits when world gas prices were falling with the COVID-19 pandemic and it is their duty to support the Government’s move to protect the jobs of even private sector employees.

Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Bandula Gunawardana, Wimal Weerawansa, Prasanna Ranatunga, State Ministers Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Shasheendra Rajapaksa, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Arundika Fernando, Janaka Wakkumbura, Shehan Semasinghe, Prasanna Ranaweera, Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senarath, Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, Governor of the Central Bank Prof. W.D. Lakshman and a number of senior officials were present.